Giving Thanks for our Lakes

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving this week. The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for us to think about what we are thankful for, and I am thankful for our lakes.

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking MNlakesinto which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”– Henry David Thoreau

Today, I will illustrate the abundant natural resources we have access to as Minnesotans and get creative about what you can do to protect them and inspire others to do the same.

First, the facts: Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes”, but we actually have 11,842 lakes over 10 acres and 69,200 miles of rivers and streams. Even the name “Minnesota” comes from the Dakota Indian name “Minisota,” which means sky-tinted water. Minnesota’s surface area is 9% water (includes lakes, rivers and wetlands).
A few weeks ago I was on a flight from Minneapolis to Fargo, and the flight path goes right over the large corridor of lakes left behind by the glaciers. Watching out the window, it was just amazing how much water was there. We have set aside some of the most picturesque areas in the nation for our enjoyment. Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is the largest water-based park in the National Park System. In the Detroit Lakes area alone we have Itasca State Park, Maplewood State Park, Buffalo River State Park, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, and Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge. We enjoy of our natural resources, and the figures prove it. Minnesota is first nationally in the sales of fishing licenses per capita. By the numbers, 29% of Minnesotans fish, 14% of Minnesotans hunt, 41% of Minnesotans boat (including fishing from a boat) and 52% of Minnesotans watch wildlife. I bet those percentages are even higher in our area.

So what are some creative ways can we protect these resources? I bet you do some of these things already, because they are tied to using our natural resources. To contribute monetarily, you can buy a fishing license, hunting license, state park permit, critical habitat license plate, and even a lottery ticket. On your taxes, look for the loon where you can contribute to the nongame wildlife fund. For land, consider conservation easements or donating your land to the Minnesota Land Trust. There are also endless conservation organizations to donate money or time to.

What will really protect our resources in the long-term is adopting the behavior of appreciation and awareness for our natural resources and sharing it with others. Invite a friend or child fishing, commit to learning more about conservation issues, watch the sunset over the lake, and go for a walk on a trail. When we really take the time to stop, think and enjoy our surroundings, we become inspired to protect them.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love.” – Baba Dioum, a Senegalese ecologist